Op-Ed: How Should Christians Prepare for Persecution? Chinese Believers Share These 3 Steps
By Todd Nettleton, Op-Ed, The Western Journal
May 19, 2021
Some years ago I met a pastor in China who’d been arrested on numerous occasions by communist authorities. Two things I will always remember about that pastor: his fearlessness and his packed bag.
The bag was packed with a change of clothes and a blanket. It was packed for prison. He was ready to go. His church was growing, new people were coming to faith in Christ and he was excited about the blessings his church was experiencing. The “price” of those blessings, he knew, was persecution; a price he would willingly pay. Thus, the packed bag.
I thought of that dear pastor recently when I read of the arrest of another Chinese church leader, Elder Zhang Chunlei of Ren’ai Reformed Church in Guiyang, currently imprisoned awaiting trial for alleged “fraud.” He is one of many Christians in China paying a high price for choosing to place loyalty to Christ ahead of loyalty to the Communist Party.
Like the pastor I met years ago, Elder Zhang was prepared for persecution. He and other church leaders agreed that they were willing to suffer rather than step back from their faith or ministry. They also agreed to see any future imprisonments not as a grave injustice or impossible difficulty but rather as an opportunity to witness for Christ.
When Chinese Christians speak of “prison ministry,” this is what they mean: A Christian gets arrested, goes to prison and shares the gospel.
The church leaders made one final agreement: Every day, imprisoned or free, they would pause at 5 p.m. to pray for each other. So wherever Elder Zhang is being held, he knows people are praying for him every afternoon at 5 p.m.
One question I often ask persecuted Christians when I visit and interview them is this: How did you get ready for persecution?
It’s a question I ask to delve into details of their own story, of course. But it’s also a question American Christians are asking: If persecution is coming, how can we prepare our hearts, our minds and our children to stand firm in faith?
Some consistent themes in answers I’ve heard over the years:
1. Persecuted Christians get ready because they decided to get ready.
Part of getting ready is acknowledging that persecution may come, that I, myself, may have to pay a price for what I believe.
We like to think of the cross as a beautiful symbol we wear on a chain around our neck, but when Jesus told his followers to take up their cross and follow him, (Matt. 16:24) they understood the cross as a method of brutal torture and execution. Jesus also told his followers to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28) ahead of time.
2. Persecuted Christians get ready by knowing God’s Word.
Glenn Penner, the late director of VOM Canada, wrote that “The Bible (especially the New Testament) was written by persecuted believers to persecuted believers.” What better textbook to prepare for persecution could there be?
The Bible speaks directly to the trials Christians will face, and it instructs us on how to respond — by loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.
3. Persecuted Christians get ready by watching and learning from those who’ve already suffered.
Chinese Christians like Elder Zhang are familiar not only with Biblical examples like Peter and Paul but also the faithful examples of their own countrymen, like Watchman Nee, Pastor Samuel Lamb or Pastor Allen Yuen.
We, too, can learn from the example of Christians enduring persecution. Resources from The Voice of the Martyrs and others can teach us.
Every time we read the story of a persecuted Christian, the simple question, “What would I do in that situation?” can help us think and pray and grow strong in our faith—strong enough with God’s help to endure any coming trial.
Todd Nettleton is the host of "The Voice of the Martyrs Radio" and the author of "When Faith is Forbidden: 40 Days on the Frontlines with Persecuted Christians." He has personally interviewed hundreds of persecuted Christians in 20+ years serving at VOM.
The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.
document, plus links
The kill zone
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10 (EHV)
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military
June 14, 2020 (written during the ramping up of the Covid-19 global pandemic)
A kill zone is the primary target area for a military ambush. It can also refer to the blast radius for an explosive weapon such as a grenade or bomb, or anything else that kills. It’s a dangerous place. We should avoid it. But we cannot.
We live our entire life on earth in a kill zone.
Maybe earlier we could forget this. While we knew everyone will someday die, it was easier, back then, to pretend it only happened to others.
We can pretend no more.
Those who have spent time in combat have already learned this. No matter how young they were, or how good their weapons, they knew getting killed was always a distinct possibility.
It changed the way they thought about living and about dying. They knew they lived in a kill zone.
People who live far from battlefields tend to think they live in a safe zone. They hear no weapons of war. They seldom see stretcher bearers at work.
Surely, they are safe.
They are not.
The whole world should realize by now that there is no place completely safe. The very air we breathe can kill us. The old hymn had it right: “I walk in danger all the way.”
Everyone on this planet lives in the kill zone.
It has been this way since our first parents were driven from Eden and angels were sent to bar access to the tree of life.
Earth had become infected with the virus of sin. It brought death to everyone it touched.
Human eyes alone are not able to detect the coronavirus. A victim may not even know he has been infected. He may ignore the symptoms. But untreated, it can be deadly.
It’s much the same with the sin virus. The lab report is in from heaven. Rebellion against the holy God has been detected in the entire human race. Sometimes it reaches a fever pitch.
We don’t need to take a test. We already know what God sees. Our conscience tells us. His Word confirms it: We are dead men walking.
It’s only a matter of time before our hearts stop. Each day inches us closer. The warning words rush back into our minds: “Dust thou art…”
If the coronavirus doesn’t get us, something else will. The future? Looks hopeless, doesn’t it?
The prognosis for our soul is no better. Sin already infected us in our mother’s womb.
It is not! The hope is real. Our hope is certain. It’s based on this: That which is dead can come to life again. That’s the official declaration from the Giver of life.
The Son of God explained why he came to live and die on this planet: “I came that they may have life…”
Who are the “they”? We are.
How long of life? How complete of a life? What kind of life?
“And have it abundantly.”
Those who put their faith in him receive new life for their soul. Those who put their faith in him receive new life for their bodies.
“I will come back and take you to be with me” he said, “that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).
We don’t just live until we die. We live until we live again—till we live anew.
A squad of angels will extract us from the valley of death. We will receive a hero’s flight.
We will leave the kill zone. We will leave as victors.
Creator and Savior God, the signs of death surround us. We watch the rising numbers of those who have succumbed to a new infection, but we know that’s not the full count of the dying. We know there will finally be no survivors left on this planet. We wait for you to come back for us. We stand our watch until then. Amen.